HomeNewsSpadaro: Lots of blame to go around for Eagles’ slow start

Spadaro: Lots of blame to go around for Eagles’ slow start

The Eagles are learning some valuable lessons in the Year After Winning The Super Bowl: It ain’t easy to win in the National Football League.

By Dave Spadaro

Pick your area to critique with the 3–4 Philadelphia Eagles? The defense, which allowed consecutive touchdown drives of 80 yards, 87 yards 69 yards and a two-point conversion in Sunday’s come-from-ahead 21–17 loss to the Carolina Panthers? Or how about the offense, which ran the ball 24 times for only 58 yards in the entire game and couldn’t put the ball in the end zone with the game on the line and a first-and-10 at the Carolina 22-yard line?

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Or something else?

The Eagles are learning some valuable lessons in the Year After Winning The Super Bowl: It ain’t easy to win in the National Football League.

“We need to put teams away and we aren’t doing it,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “That’s the most disappointing thing. Two times now, we’ve been in position to win games and we haven’t closed teams out.”

There are a couple of ways to look at this team as the season enters a crucial game on Sunday in London against Jacksonville. At 3–4, the Eagles are still very much alive in the NFC East. They’re two games behind Washington in the loss column, and the Redskins have a favorable schedule, but the Eagles still have five games remaining in the division, and winning the NFC East is how this team can make the postseason. Philadelphia still very much controls its destiny. The other perspective is that the Eagles are a deeply flawed team that has lacked consistency all season and that it’s asking an awful lot to think that this group can flip a switch and play at a high level for 60 minutes week after week the rest of the way.

“The New Normal” that head coach Doug Pederson talked about in the aftermath of the Super Bowl LII victory hasn’t yet manifested itself with the Eagles. Instead, the Eagles have become what most of the NFL is these days — up one week, struggling the next and then not-so-certain the Sunday after that. That’s why only six of 16 teams in the NFC, for example, have winning records. So, the Eagles are far from out of the playoff picture.

But they’ve clearly got to play better football. What’s wrong with the team? Here are a few areas of concern …

• The Eagles aren’t getting much going with the running game. They’re 21st in the league in yards per game, 102.9 yards, and that’s just not good enough. Against Carolina, the Eagles had the football and a three-point lead with four minutes remaining, a time when running games take over and move the chains and eat clock. The Eagles couldn’t sustain a drive.

• As was loud and clear in Sunday’s game, the defense isn’t getting off the field late in games. It happened in Tampa and in Tennessee and it happened again against the Panthers. When the pass rush is negated, teams are gaining chunks of yards in the passing game. The Eagles rank third in the NFL in overall third-down defense, but the late-game breakdowns in those games cost the team potential victories.

• Injuries have been an important factor. Losing running back Jay Ajayi has negatively impacted the running game. Without wide receiver Mike Wallace, the Eagles lack vertical speed in the passing game. Darren Sproles was supposed to be a big part of the offense, but he hasn’t played since Week 1. The defensive secondary is riddled with injuries. That’s life in the NFL.

And yet, a win on Sunday gets the Eagles to 4–4 with half a season to play. Mark Sunday down as one that’s as close to a must-win game as you can have at the season’s midway point. ••

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